How to Open Your Throat – Advice for Singers

Published Categorized as Singing

You may think that opening your throat is a pretty obvious thing to do if you are singing but actually, opening your throat while you are singing is a little more complicated and technical. Learning how to open your throat properly can help you with all kinds of issues when it comes to your voice like your vocal range or your vocal tone.

In this article we will explore why you should open your throat when you sing and how you should best start practicing how to open your throat properly when you sing.

Performing into a mic

Table of Contents

How To Open Your Throat

Opening the throat while singing may sound strange as you would think that would happen naturally! Well, opening the throat is actually a technique where the pharyngeal space is increased and the vocal folds are retracted which will maximize the resonating space. This will produce a clear and louder vocal as there is more resonating space. Opening the throat involves using your soft palate and making sure it is raised. You will also need to lower the larynx. It is also good to make sure that the shape of the mouth is correct when you are singing and that you are making use of the facial muscles.

When a vocalist sings with a closed throat it creates imbalance. This means that the chest vocal register or also known as the chest voice, will be sung too high and the sound of the vocal tone becomes harsh. When there is imbalance, the vocalist will find that intonation will become harder to apply due to the larynx being too high and the soft palate too low which can make the voice feel as if it is being squeezed from both the top and the bottom. This is not healthy for the voice as it can make your vocal tone appear too nasally or too throaty.

Here is a list of different ways you can open your throat to make sure you are singing in a healthy way:

  • Learning To Incorporate Yawning Into Your Vocal Practice 
  • Changing Your Facial Posture 
  • Changing How You Inhale 
  • Making Sure Your Posture Is Good 

Learning To Incorporate Yawning Into Your Vocal Practice

Learning how to incorporate yawning into your practice is one of the most common ways that vocal coaches teach you how to open your throat when you are singing. If you do not get the technique right it can produce an overly open pharyngeal space which could create a throaty vocal tone. You will also need to make sure that when you practice this technique it does not flatten or retract your tongue.

Besides watching out for these two obstacles, yawning is a great exercise to open the throat. The yawning technique can help keep an open throat as it is intended to help relax or vocally release the throat. This then helps the singer to avoid constriction or tension that could sit in the jaw and cause the tone of the voice to be altered.

Yawning is a great exercise generally for the voice. It is advised that when you practice this technique that it is best done while standing. Once your mouth is open and wide, it is important to relax your arms and try to yawn a very big yawn. The soft palate in your mouth will move while you are singing and when a beginning singer experiences frequent yawning during singing, it could be for this reason. Yawning is a good thing as it brings more oxygen into your bloodstream. When you practice singing, your breathing may be a little off.  If you are not getting enough oxygen into your body, your body might automatically yawn to take in more oxygen. Yawning is great practice but also designed to help the body function.

Changing Your Facial Posture

Changing your facial posture can be very helpful, especially if you are struggling to sing with a relaxed throat. If you find that you feel tense when you sing, it could be your facial posture causing this tension or what might feel like tightness. When you sing, the soft palate naturally rises and the larynx automatically lowers, especially when you breathe in. If you practice a good external facial posture, this can  directly affect the position of the soft palate. Practicing good facial posture can help raise the soft palate and therefore help open your throat when you sing and also improve your vocal tone.

If you have poor facial posture, this can result in reduced respiratory support for voice which will then reduce the openness of the vocal cords. Singing with a tight throat that is not properly open can lead to vocal fatigue and muscle tension. An easy facial posture to practise is the expression of surprise. If you raise your eyebrows while creasing your forehead this reenacts the expression of surprise. It is also useful to flare your nostrils or widen your eyes. His can help relieve tense muscles and enhance resonance balancing. Instead, they produce tension.

Changing How You Inhale

Changing how you inhale may help you breathe deeply and calming and allow your throat muscles to relax. Breathing deeply and practicing good breathing techniques will help you not only be able to control your vocal better but also hold your vocal for longer. Teaching yourself how to better inhale is tricky but it can be done. To start learning you should make sure that when you inhale you do this softly. Imagine you are either drinking in the breath or inhaling the breath. Breathing softly can help raise the soft palate and separate it from the tongue. This will then help lower the larynx while you are inhaling. 

Making Sure Your Posture Is Good

Working on your posture can help you open up your body, inducing your throat. This will very much help the vocal sound fuller and allow the vocalist to control their voice more effectively. Singing with a tall, open posture can help your vocal to project louder and stay in the correct key. Singing with an open and correct posture is one of the easiest fixes to a bad voice as it will improve your singing voice in different ways. Many vocalists have had huge improvements in their voice as soon as they find the correct posture for them. The correct posture is pretty standard for every vocalist and it is more than often that singers are singing in a bad posture.

Maintaining an open posture is the challenge of every vocalist. The vocalist will need to not allow any tension or constriction to enter the throat. If you persistently sing with a closed throat then this can cause issues to your vocal range over time. If you do have a closed throat, the tensions and difficulties related can be due to a raised larynx.

To practice an open posture you will need to make sure you are standing up tall with your feet spread apart at shoulder width. Make sure that you are standing sturdy and on a flat surface.Pairing your shoulders in line with your hips is the best place to start. Once you have done that you will need to pair your hips in line with your feet. Make sure that your chest is lifted and that you are not leaning backwards or forwards. Remaining straight will be better for your voice. Let your knees slightly bend to make sure that your body is not stiff.

Ingrid Olava singing live

How To Open Throat When Belting Notes

When we refer to belting, we are referring to a specific vocal technique where a singer carries their chest voice above their break and then goes on to hold that note. Practicing an open throat will help the  relaxation or vocal release in the throat. This relaxation will then help the singer avoid tension that could throttle the vocal tone. Tension will stop a vocalist from performing a belting note correctly and may even stop them belting while singing at all.

Here are some tricks to try to make sure that you open your throat, especially when you are belting a note:

  • Practise Your Vowels 
  • Apply Correct Posture To Your Head, Chin, Neck And Back
  • Pay Attention To The Soft Palate
  • Fix Your Tongue

Practise Your Vowels 

Practicing Your Vowels when you are singing in your chest voice can help you when you are belting a phrase. A helpful technique to make sure that the resonating spaces are open is using a neutral vowel such as ‘uh’ in the larynx. It is best to work on this shape within the throat before you begin to focus on the vocal tone when singing the vowel. This vowel technique will allow you to open the pharynx. When practicing it can often help to sing the ‘uh’ sound while positioning the tongue appropriately for the vowel. For example, you should sing the vowel repeatedly on a single exhale breath and aim to maintain the openness of the ‘uh’ vowel. Starting with an “a’ sound is also good for practicing as it is very similar to the vowel “uh”. Once this exercise becomes easier to do, you can begin to open the throat while remaining silent and being able to quickly move the tongue and the lips into position for the desired vowel.

Apply Correct Posture To Your Head, Chin, Neck And Back

If you are struggling to make the most of your voice because you can feel that your throat is tight or tense, then good bodily posture is a must. Make sure that you stand up straight, with your shoulders back. Your chin level and the head should be in a comfortable position, just how they would be if you were speaking. The front of the neck should not be stretched or tight but you should aim for it to feel loose. This posture will help you place the jaw into the proper position for singing correctly and healthily. Once you have a good posture and position will improve vocal fold function. Breath support will also be improved.

You can monitor your posture using a wall, but make sure that your head is facing straight forward. When standing against a wall, you will need to maintain the slight curves in your back and in the neck as you do not want your body to be tense like a plank of wood. This posture practice will offer the correct head posture for singing in all registers which includes chest voice and head voice.

While you are performing you should not keep the head turned to either side for any length of time as this could have negative effects on your overall posture. If you are a performer who specializes in musical theater then this may be unavoidable as you may have make eye contact with the audience while sitting at a piano. If this is the case, aim to practice neck exercises or massage your neck. It is always best to keep the head facing straight during all singing if it is possible. If you must sit while you are singing, it is important to keep your back straight and not hunched as this will allow for good breath support. This is one of the biggest challenges for vocalists, especially those who play the guitar while they are seated as they tend to naturally hunch in order to play their instruments.

Pay Attention To The Soft Palate

The soft palate will need to be one of the main focuses if you are hoping to open your throat while you are singing. When you inhale or prepare to sing, the soft palate will automatically rise. The soft palate does this to allow for more space for the airflow. You will be able to see this for yourself by looking into a mirror while opening your mouth and inhaling. Practicing deep breathing is one of the most successful ways of relaxing the throat and preventing tension.

It is easy to apply for a short amount of time but the key is to learn to maintain this open and elevated position while singing in long bursts. You must focus on not allowing the soft palate to lower and you must keep it risen. This skill will be very useful especially if you are singing in head voice or in the upper level of your vocal range. When you sing In upper range, the fauces start to rise more as well as the soft palate.

If you are a singer that sings in the english language there are a lot of vowels that sound nasally. The velum in the throat is lowered particularly when a singer makes these nasal consonants.

Fix Your Tongue

It is common that when you are singing you are not giving enough consideration to the role of the tongue and how it could be affecting your throat. The position and shape of the tongue are crucial when it comes to good vocal health and good resonance. The tongue can affect the vocal tract and the laryngeal efficiency.

If you place your tongue in incorrect positions this could lead to technical and vocal health problems which includes making your voice sound dull, harsh or tinny. Wrong tongue placement can also distort your vowel sounds, cause unclear diction, and lead to a depressed larynx. All of these issues caused by the tongue being in incorrect positions can go on to lead to discomfort in the throat and an inability to perform in your head voice and higher vocal range.

The correct way of placing your tongue is pretty simple. The tip of the tongue should rest behind the lower front teeth while you are singing. The tip of the tongue should move from this ideal position only briefly in order to form certain consonants and you should not move it all the time. The middle of the tongue should create an arch that must be allowed to move in order to shape the vowels as it naturally would. For example the middle of the tongue should raise for closed vowels and lower for more open vowel sounds. The shape of the arch will change for different vowels, but the tip of the tongue should always remain by the front of the teeth while singing all vowels and consonants. You can allow the tongue to quickly move out of this resting place only for the production of consonants, but should return quickly.

How To Open Your Throat – Advice For Singers

How To Keep Your Throat Open While Singing Head Voice

Head voice is higher in pitch than the other vocal registers but not as high as whistle register. Whistle register cover notes that are normally near the top of the keyboard. Many singers can not reach the whistle register. The head voice is a more common register and still covers some high notes. The head voice allows the notes to sound bright and light sounding, often producing a more delicate or gentle vocal sound. Therefore, you will need to keep an open throat to allow your vocal range to extend into your head voice range.

Here is a list of simple ways you can keep your throat open when you are singing in your head voice:

  • Exercise Your Diaphragm 
  • Ease A Tight Throat 

Exercise Your Diaphragm

The diaphragm is used to help support the lungs when air is coming in and out of the body. To activate the diaphragm and use it to help with your singing, you will want to take nice deep breaths rather than shallow breaths. Learning how to sing using your diaphragm can provide long lasting benefits and results such as helping to care for your vocal cords, helping you produce longer notes and also helping you master better breath control.

Posture is a great place to start when learning how to exercise your diaphragm. You must learn how to stand with your shoulder blades resting back and your knees relaxed. This will allow you to take a deep inhale. When you do you should see that your stomach is being pushed forward like when you blow up a beach ball.  

When you exhale, you should  feel that your stomach is deflating. Repeating these kinds of breaths for up to  15 times to help the diaphragm build muscle. You must always avoid pushing those breaths from the throat as you could cause damage.

There is a simple breathing trick to help you locate exactly where your diaphragm is. Firstly it will help to lie down on the floor so that you can see your stomach. Make sure that you take a nice slow deep breath in and hold the breath for a second or two. Once you have held the breath you should exhale. While you are breathing deeply, make sure to look at your stomach and see the movement so that it helps you locate where your diaphragm is. Lying on your back while doing this exercise will help you breathe deeply as when you are lying on your back, it is more difficult to take shallow breaths.

Ease A Tight Throat

Learning to relax when singing is the key to making sure your throat is eased. The more open your throat is, the easier it is to sing from the diaphragm and the better your vocal will sound. This is very important when you go to sing high notes or if you suffer with stage nerves while you perform. Both of these issues could be caused by throat tightness. There are quick and simple solutions to easing a tight throat. Making sure you regularly warm up before singing practice is the best way to keep the throat at ease. Regularly practicing will help care for your throat.

There are other ways you can generally heal and help care for your voice. Fruit and herbal tea can be very soothing for vocal cords and even contain ingredients like liquorice and honey that can be soothing and clarifying for the throat. Making sure you always warm up will help your vocal cords in the long run. If you start singing long pieces of repertoire straight away before you have started warming up, this could cause an injury to your vocal cords.

How To Keep Your Throat Open While Singing Chest Voice

The chest voice can also be referred to as the modal voice. The chest voice is when your vocal folds are more relaxed. You will often be more comfortable singing in your chest voice as this is the type of vocal register you speak in daily. The chest voice sounds natural as the vocal folds open up fully and the vibrations will be felt in your upper body.

The chest voice will produce notes within your comfortable vocal range, most likely the notes that are in the middle of your vocal range which are the ones that are easier to sing. The chest voice can produce low notes but will not cover as low as the vocal fry register. The chest voice will cover a varied amount of notes and it differs from person to person.

Here are some simple ways you can keep your voice open while you are singing in your chest voice:

  • Practice Your Vocal Range 
  • Understand Your Chest Voice

Practice Your Vocal Range

Improving your vocal range can help when you are trying to sing in your chest voice and open your throat at the same time. Being confident knowing that you can hit all the notes in your chest range will help you naturally not tighten up when you sing. The way to get confident using your chest voice is to have balance in your tones and your vocal registers. The best way to practice your chest voice is by practicing major and minor scales. These scales can start off small and cover all the notes within your chest voice making sure there are no breaking notes. The voice usually breaks when going from the thick cords of chest voice to the thin cords of head voice and this is something you may have to work on.

It is common that higher notes in your vocal range will sound sweeter but be harder to reach. Singing the notes in your chest voice with a soft tone rather than an attack tone can help care for your voice. It is best to be able to reach these notes comfortably so that you can sing them in a soft tone.

Understand Your Chest Voice

Understanding your chest voice is one of the ways you can learn how best to sing in it. Knowing how your chest voice works and where it starts and ends will help you navigate how best to open your throat when you sing. The best way to know how to fix a problem, like a closed throat, is to understand when it is occuring. You should aim to master your voice how you would master an instrument. For example you should aim to treat your vocal cords like a string instrument. This level of care and understanding for your voice will help you learn what feels right when you sing and what feels wrong. Approaching a vocal coach for guidance is a great idea if you are still feeling like you are not opening your throat when you are singing your chest voice.

Make Sure You Do Not Strain Your Voice

Straining your voice can be very damaging and is easy to do especially when using your chest voice. A strained voice is more common to occur if you do not open your throat properly while you are singing. A pulled chest voice is one of the biggest vocal Problems singers face when they have issues with tension in their throat.

A pulled chest voice occurs when the singer tries to maintain the resonance of the lower chest voice when attempting higher notes. This can lead to straining, cracking, and vocal damage. For example nodules can occur due to improper vocal fold function. If you have a pulled chest voice it can overwork the muscles, which then causes the vocal cords to come together with too much force. If the vocal cords come together with too much force thai will then cause voice strain. Tight throat and tongue tension can cause singers to have complications with reaching higher notes.

Vocal Exercises To Help The Throat

Vocal exercise can help you improve your vocal range and skill but also help you activate certain muscles while you are singing, for example opening the throat. Here is a list of vocal exercises you can do to open your throat while singing:

  • Yawn Sigh Technique
  • Humming Warm Ups
  • Vocal Straw Exercise
  • Lip Buzz Vocal Warm Up
  • Tongue Trill Exercise
  • Jaw Loosening Exercise
  • Two Octave Pitch Glide Warm Up
  • Vocal Sirens Exercise

Yawn Sigh Technique

The primary effects of the yawn sigh are a lowered larynx and a widened supraglottic vocal tract which includes the pharynx and the laryngeal vestibule. Professional and experienced singers use this technique because the widened vocal tract impacts voice resonance to make it sound more natural. This exercise is very easy to achieve. To get you started you will simply need to yawn or take in air with your mouth closed. Sounds strange, but trust us it works! Once you have inhaled you will need to exhale through your nose as if you are sighing. This technique will help relax your voice and improve your vocal range.

Humming Warm-Ups

Humming exercises can help you stretch your vocal cords. This vocal technique helps stretch the vocal cords as it relaxes your facial muscles while improving your breathing. Humming can also develop your vocal resonance and tone quality making you have a better vocal tone (INTERNAL LINK WHEN THE ARTICLE IS PUBLISHED). To practice the humming warm-ups you will want to  relax your facial muscles and body.

Humming can be a great vocal warm-up for lots of different aspects of singing. Humming can be one of the best all-around vocal exercises and it is used by professional singers across the globe. Humming can easily be done almost anytime and anywhere as it is quieter and does not project like open mouth singing. The tone of humming is emerging from the nasal passages and not the mouth and therefore it is quieter.

To practice a humming warm up aim to place the tip of your tongue behind your bottom front teeth. Once you have done this you should try to hum up and down the major scale or an easy tune while keeping your mouth closed. Each note should sound like “hmmm” which should include the “h” sound so that it is less exhausting for the voice.

Vocal Straw Exercise

Singing with a straw is similar to other semi-occluded vocal tract exercises, singing through a straw is a great way to work on breath control and relax your voice. The narrower opening of a straw makes the airstream small and gives you great aural cues for when you’ve just blown out all the air and deflated. Once you learn how to sing through the straw correctly, It is easy to practice a simple warm-up routine that you can do any time. You can make singing through a straw last from anywhere between 5 minutes to 15 minutes long. Once you have completed this you can then move on to your regular warm-ups and singing, either for practice or performance

Singing through a straw is classed as a semi-occluded vocal tract exercise. This means that as you vocalize, the air coming out of your mouth is partially blocked by the straw. This blockage creates a resistance in the vocal tract, which then sends energy back to the vocal folds and helps them vibrate more efficiently. Straw singing exercises when practiced regularly can help vocal tone and coordinate the muscles used for singing.

To practice the vocal straw exercise or also known as straw phonation exercise you will need either a plastic or paper straw to hum through. You should start at the bottom of your range while you are humming and then slide up to the top of your vocal range slowly and evenly. The next step you can take is to then hum your favorite song through the straw. You can also place the straw in a partially full glass of liquid and blow controlled bubbles in the glass.

Lip Buzz Vocal Warm-Up

A lip buzz exercise can also be known as a lip trill exercise. Practicing a Lip buzz exercise can help put your body in the proper positioning for healthy singing and speaking. The air that pushes up from the escaping breath can help you increase your breath support. The air escaping will also put your larynx muscles in a relaxed state. The vibrations of the lip buzz exercise can also help to relax and activate your face muscles.

To do a lip buzz exercise you will want to purse your lips and attempt to make the noise of the engine revving up. Your mouth should be closed with your lips relaxed as they buzz or roll together. If you can not produce a lip buzz then you will need to make sure you have enough airflow. If there is not enough air blowing past the lips, no buzz is created. If you are doing everything correctly but still not having any luck then try to increase your volume of air. This may require taking deeper, fuller, and more efficient breaths before you do your lip buzz exercise.

Tongue Trill Exercise

Regularly practicing tongue trills can help to loosen up the tongue and jaw while also opening the throat. It is a useful exercise for singers who tend to either mumble when they sing or have  a tense jaw or tongue. Regularly practicing tongue trills also helps keep the larynx in a stable position when pronouncing vowels and consonants. When practicing tongue trills you will not have to vocalize fully which allows the voice to rest.

The tongue trill vocal exercise can be difficult for some singers as It involves curling your tongue and rolling your R’s as you go through your vocal range. It is best to start from the lower end of your vocal range and make your way up to the highest point in your vocal range when you are practicing tongue trills at home. 

A tongue trill is most effective when done to a sirening sound. This exercise will allow the vocal warm up the entire vocal range. The vocal folds or known as vocal cords are stretched to their maximum length and then back to their shortest length when practicing a tongue trill.

Jaw Loosening Exercise

Practicing jaw opening exercises can not only help to correctly open the throat when you sing but can also help you prevent pain in the neck, head, and jaw while you are singing. Making sure you incorporate jaw opening exercises can help you relieve tension in the jaw which could be restricting your singing voice.

To start practicing jaw opening exercises you will need to open and close your mouth several times as a warm-up. When you have gotten used to this movement you can then take hold of your bottom teeth gently with one hand. Make sure to slowly pull down on your jaw with your hand until you begin to feel light pain. At that point you should stop pulling on your jaw and hold it for 30 seconds, and then allow your mouth to close again.

When you are singing, you will want to drop your jaw lower than when you are talking. A good exercise to try is to pretend you are yawning with your mouth closed and feel where your jaw drops. Avoid just dropping your chin as this is not effective.

Two Octave Pitch Glide Warm Up

Warming up your voice by sliding between notes can help stretch your vocal chords and help you clear your throat before you sing. Sliding between notes and practicing this transition can also help with breathing technique too.

Practicing a two octave pitch glide warm up can help you expand your vocal range by up to one or even two octaves. To practice this two octave pitch glide vocal warm up you will need to either make an “eeee” or “ohhhh” sound and gradually slide through the chromatic notes of a two octave range. It is best to make sure to glide up the scale and then back down the scale. This will help transition your chest voice to your head voice and even help break notes.

Vocal Sirens Exercise

When you practice and perform a siren vocal exercise, the vocal functions in two different but basic ways. Performing a siren vocal exercise can create contact with the true vocal folds and help produce movement of the larynx. A siren vocal exercise is a good exercise to practice daily, especially if you want to  explore or extend your vocal range. This siren vocal exercise warm up will help to eradicate unexpected break notes in the throat from occurring when you are speaking or singing.

Practicing a siren vocal exercise is very similar to a pitch glide warm up. The siren exercise can be used on an “oooo” sound and you should gradually sing from the lowest note in your vocal range to the highest note in your vocal range and then back down. This will then create a  siren sound, similar to the sound an emergency vehicle produces.

Here is a demonstration video by Power To Sing on how to warm up your voice to make sure you are singing with your throat open:

Posture Will Help You Open Your Throat When You Start Singing

Good posture may be all you need to help you open your throat when you start singing. Understanding what happens to your voice when you attempt singing will help you when you are learning how to open your throat properly. Many singers have had their voices transformed as soon as they find the correct posture for an open throat.

The correct posture is standard for every singer and it is more than often that singers are singing in a bad posture. Practicing an open posture is the best way to start positioning your body when you start to sing. Standing with a good correct posture allows your diaphragm and throat to have the support it needs. By supporting your diaphragm and throat you will start to sing better. You can start to see if you are standing correctly by watching yourself in a mirror while you are singing and practicing will help you tell if you are keeping that good posture.

Making sure that you check on your posture during practice will help you keep your voice supported and will allow you to sing better for longer. Relaxing your jaw will help you improve your vocal tone, vocal range and open your throat.

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FAQs

How Can I Open My Throat More?

When your throat feels sore and overused, there are a few tricks you can do to find relief which involve Gargling with a mixture of 8 ounces warm water and 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt. You can also suck on a throat lozenge, drink warm liquids, such as tea with honey and turn on a cool-mist humidifier to add moisture to the air. This will help you care for your throat so that it will open up more when you sing and not be constricted. There are also other tricks that can help you open your throat up when you sing which include breathing Into your ribs, dropping your jaw and bringing your chest up.

How Do You Open Your Throat Manually?

If you want to have a full and rounded sound, you need to make sure you have enough resonating space. The biggest issue here is opening up your throat! Knowing how not to squeeze your throat when singing is tricky but essential. Making sure you regularly warm up before singing practice, lessons and performances is a great way to keep the throat relaxed. Put your hand on your lower abdomen and then take deep breaths down into this area, rather than snatching high chest breaths. This will help you make sure you are opening your throat manually when you sing. You will also need to raise your soft palate, lower your larynx, widen your pharynx and position your articulators correctly to help you make sure you are opening your throat manually when you sing.

By Nate Pallesen

Nate is just your average (above average) guitar player. He's no Joe Satriani, Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page - wait this site is about acoustic guitars (sorry) He's no Django Reinhardt, Chet Atkins, or Michael Hedges, wait? who!? He's no Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton or Ben Harper - more familiar? Anyway you get the point :-)

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